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External hard drives: with fan or fanless?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
When external hard drives first came around, nearly all of them had internal fans. Now it seems that most of the models are fanless. The number one killer of hard drives is heat, so I'm wondering...

Are external drive enclosures really good enough that they can go fanless, or are manufacturers skimping on a necessary component?
post #2 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by infinitesymphony View Post
When external hard drives first came around, nearly all of them had internal fans. Now it seems that most of the models are fanless. The number one killer of hard drives is heat, so I'm wondering...

Are external drive enclosures really good enough that they can go fanless, or are manufacturers skimping on a necessary component?
IIRC a study done by Google on their vast arrays of hard drives found little correlation between heat and failure. In fact most hard drives seemed to last for quite awhile if they don't fail without the first year, meaning few drives failed in the second or third year. This leads me to believe it's dependant first on quality of manufacturing, then fatigue finishing off even the good ones later on.
post #3 of 20
We use a couple of maxtor fanless external drives for backup in our server room. They tend to fail with a rate of one or two every year and that's a lot for harddrives. It gets kinda hot in there, and I wouldn't be surprized if the drives got too hot and failed because of that. Shouldn't be good for general wear, and I'd rest a lot easier if there was a fan, or at least some kind of heatsink integrated in the body.
post #4 of 20
fanless
post #5 of 20
I read a study somewhere last year that concluded every degree of heat equates to a shorter life for the HD. Wasn't a huge amount though. Time is the biggest killer.

I let me HDs run hot and silent (very well insulated) and back up religiously. When they die, it's $100 or whatever and I have a silent PC. My most often used external seagate (500GB) had a fan but I de-commissioned it, for quiet. Been going strong for about 3 years but I'm sure it'll go one day. They all do.
post #6 of 20
Fanless for me!
I have two external disks at the moment. One which are into its fifth year (a 500GB LaCie) and one which are into its second year (160GB 2.5"). Neither of them have a fan, and both are running great with no issues at all.
post #7 of 20
I read a study about heat correlating to failure in HDs a while back, so I'm too paranoid to run them without at least a small fan. Who knows which study is correct, but I'd rather spend a couple extra $ than risk my data unnecessarily.
post #8 of 20
I've kept an Samsumd HDD in a Scythe HDD Silencer outside the computer case for a while. It stayed cool and silent. With no fans.
So if the HDD in the External enclosure isn't one of the hottest and the case is well designed to get the heat off the HDD, it should work well fanless.
But I haven't had real experience with external HDD's and I haven't monitored/compared temperatures of different External HDD enclosures though.
post #9 of 20
I had 3 3.5" Seagates, all running in fanless external cases. They all failed within the first year. I had them stacked and the cases would get blistering hot. Even the replacement/recertifed disks started to fail. I wouldn't run them without fans and I have noticed that more and more external 3.5" cases are coming with fans.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brainsalad View Post
I had 3 3.5" Seagates, all running in fanless external cases. They all failed within the first year. I had them stacked and the cases would get blistering hot. Even the replacement/recertifed disks started to fail. I wouldn't run them without fans and I have noticed that more and more external 3.5" cases are coming with fans.
Ouch, that's not good news. Though I'd guess that if the enclosures were aluminum (like the Seagate FreeAgent Pro series), they were meant to act as heatsinks for the drives, which would prohibit stacking. I've heard other reports that the power input / USB / eSATA output sections in the bases of the Seagate drives tend to overheat themselves and/or the drives, so I guess that's another source of concern.

From what I've seen, more drives and enclosures seem to be going fanless. When I bought my Western Digital 160 gig external, fanless wasn't an option. Now their entire My Book Essentials line is fanless (and lacking power buttons ), and the fan is being marketed as a premium feature for their higher-priced My Book Premium II line-up.

I've had great luck with internal drives from both Seagate and Western Digital in the past, and an older WD external drive. I'm just hoping they aren't sacrificing quality enclosures in order to save money or purposefully limit the lifespans of their drives.
post #11 of 20
If the HD used externally will be accessed often, I'd go with a reputable fan enclosure all the way just to be safe.
post #12 of 20
apricorn or ams venus for top quality aluminum + fan.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'd probably go with an AMS Venus and an internal drive if it were my money... I'm just wondering about the quality of fanless enclosures, since buying a pre-built external drive tends to be the most cost-effective route, especially when they're on sale. Some external drives cost less than $0.20 per gig. But of course, the savings won't matter if the drive fails. It's sort of a tricky situation.
post #14 of 20
I work at a Danish PC retailer and we have like a gazillion ruined external HDD enclosures and bundles laying around. The main problem with the heat they develop is that the controller board gets ruined. Another separate issue is the quality of the power supply. My best advice is completely power it down when you are not using it, that way you don't risk overheating it. Of course the heat load developed while in use is something you cannot avoid.

So transfer the data you need and then power the unit down.

Fan vs. fanless is a hard call. Try Googling the enclosure you want to buy and read some reviews. Some of the fanless enclosures are actually better at dissapating heat than some of the cheaper ones with fans installed.

I hope this all makes sense!

Cheers!
post #15 of 20
If a case is meant to be a heatsink you should put some thermal paste on the HD to touch the inside of the case. Arctic silver 5 is the best.

I also use it on detachable soldering iron tips, between the tip and the ceramic element. They get much hotter at a lower setting. Makes smoke for a couple minutes at first though.
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